Near the end of this episode, there's a brief, lovely little scene where Saimdang takes her family out to nature and uses her powers of artistic description to help them understand natural beauty. This scene is noteworthy for how horribly out of place it is. In between Lee Gyum's detective work, Saimdang's domestic problems, and greater political struggles, there's precious little time spent actually discussing art and poetry. Which is pretty jarring considering that the whole reason Saimdang is famous is because she's an artist and a poet.
...All right, I guess technically she does also have a reputation for being a good Confucian mother. But even then we rarely ever actually see Saimdang do much mothering. We do see Saimdang beat the children at one point, and it's not completely clear whether we're supposed to sympathize with her. While that kind of discipline may have been common at the time, usually its appearance in historical dramas is shorthand for unnecessarily vicious cruelty.
The framing device is, as usual, of no help. The scene transitions are so awful it's like the production team is trying to sabotage "Saimdang: Light's Diary" on purpose. We go straight from a harlequin magazine cliffhanger to Sang-hyeon talking about the document's historical relevance? Really? It doesn't help that in the modern day so much of the conflict centers around Jeong-hak considering sinister plots upon learning how Ji-yoon soliciting the help of "that fat woman".
"Saimdang: Light's Diary" is astonishingly bad. It's trying to do every possible genre except educational docudrama, which is the only genre it really needs to be doing. But worse than that it's failing. Every single conspiracy is marred by its general preposterous goofiness. The villains are all senselessly petty jerks with poorly defined motives that only just barely make sense.
Like, how is it that twenty years later Lee Gyum and Saimdang's lives are still so utterly consumed by teenage angst? How exactly do the academic politics in the present day work? Who does Hye-jeong work for, and why is her doing lab work for Ji-yoon a problem? Why can't Ji-yoon and Sang-hyeon find any sponsors for their obviously important research? Is Ji-yoon's husband ever coming back? How did Lee Gyum get to Italy? Does Saimdang even try to write poetry any more? And most importantly, why is "Saimdang: Light's Diary" dedicating so much energy to answering other stupid questions that no one ever asked?
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 7"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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